A big part of increasing productivity is identifying inefficiencies, and removing them.

If your company has 17 different billing systems, you might want to look into consolidating them.  Your productivity will go up as a byproduct of the streamlining.

Even if you have good habits and you are able to get into your productivity groove easily, you have to be aware of the systemic issues that limit your effectiveness.

Inefficiencies are Everywhere

Red tape in large companies slow things down.  Maybe your infrastructure is outdated, and you should be switching providers or upgrading your internet speed. Maybe you should even revisit your own processes to make sure you aren’t duplicating effort or wasting time.

Verizon used to have 17 different billing systems in various parts of the company — obviously creating an incredible amount of extra work in order to go between systems for any reason.  

But to Verizon’s credit, they were able to consolidate and they now only have one billing system that is used across all of their departments.  Not only does that save time and effort for the people working with the systems, but it also removes the need for multiple IT maintenance teams and separate infrastructure.  

Identify Opportunities for Improvement

Stop and think about the things that you complain about.  Do you often feel like you do the same thing twice?  Do you get frustrated by a bottleneck that slows everything down?  If you can’t think of anything, ask a co-worker or spouse what you complain about, and that might give you some ideas.  

You may not know what consolidations are possible if you always stay in your own bubble.  This is especially true for large companies like Verizon — many employees never talk to anyone outside of their own group.  But when those conversations happen, that’s when new opportunities to streamline (or even collaborate) may present themselves.

Try having lunch with someone from another department to get more ideas.  Try asking your clients what part of the design process they dread.  You’ll find plenty of opportunities to remove inefficiencies, once you start looking for them.

This is true not just with work, but also your own personal life.  Take your home finances, for example.  If you are manually entering receipts and categorizing them every month (good for you if you are!), then you could probably do that even more efficiently by using a service such as Mint or Quicken or some other tool that automatically categorizes your transactions.  You can still do a review each month to make sure it is accurate, but that should take much less time than putting in each receipt one by one.

It’s Inefficient to Work Inefficiently (Duh)

Figuring out where time is wasted is just as important as figuring out how to effectively use the time you already have.  And when you combine the two, you’ll be crossing things off your to-do list like an animal.  The longer you wait to fix inefficiencies, the more you are hurting your future self.

If you are thinking “But I don’t have any time to fix these things!”  Then that’s all the more reason to make the effort to do it.  Because you clearly need more time to work with.  There are lots of ways to find more time in the day, and putting in a little extra time now, in order to save a lot of time later, is definitely worth it.

Although, I still recommend you evaluate on a case-by-case basis if your improved solution is indeed going to save you enough time in order to make the change worth it.  The last thing you want is to go through the effort of automating a task only to find that you now spend more time getting the automation to work than the entire task used to take (this is especially true for programmers).

Keep It Simple

The important thing to remember is that you should be simplifying.  Red tape, multiple billing systems, too many links in the chain — these are results of too much complexity.  Simplify wherever you can to remove these glaring inefficiencies that are slowing you down.

Newer isn’t always better.  Different isn’t always better.  But simple is almost always better in terms of productivity.  

Get rid of the bottlenecks.  Streamline.  Consolidate.  You’ll see your productivity go up as you eliminate inefficiencies.

What are some inefficiencies that frustrate you in your everyday life?